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The Sleepwalker

January 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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I have dreamed more than once that a man may attain immortality by assiduously avoiding daylight, for it is only by the light of the sun that he ages; knowing this secret, one might go on living indefinitely. Only a few hundred people in the entire world take advantage of this arcane knowledge, moving anonymously by night among the larger cities, and actively shun the attention of those who would expose them to the curiosity, or worse, of the masses.

If you have seen one of these extraordinary beings it was without knowing it of course, there at the periphery of your view one evening at an out-of-the-way tavern, eyes half-shut, cigarette dangling from shadowy lips, sweeping the change before him on the bar into his pocket just as you arrived. You didn’t consciously mark him as he shuffled out of sight with the slow determination of a sleepwalker, but something in you did note him, and his memory returns so quickly and sharply because this is so.

Now that you acknowledge you have seen him, study what little remains to you of his profile, his peculiar slouch, for you will never see this individual again, or rather, he will never let you see him. No matter where you search through the blurred end of the night, he will always have left a few steps ahead of you, leaving behind some ashes, a drained bottle next to a sudsy glass, a layer of smoke on the stagnant air; his will be the joke at which the nodding drinkers still laugh, but you will never hear his voice.

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Lost Reflection

January 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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It’s been happening for about a month now. Whenever I stand in front of a reflective surface I see it behind me briefly before it disappears from view. I have no idea what it is, but it always manages to evade me whenever I look for it.

When I first noticed it I didn’t pay much attention, figuring that it was probably just a trick of the light. But then I began seeing it more frequently, and every time I turn around it’s gone. After several days and nights of glimpsing, turning, and wondering, I began to get more than a bit freaked out. Now I know it’s no trick of the light or my imagination. Something is there in every reflective surface I look into.

I once even feared going into the bathroom or looking out a window lest I see the bright eyes and slinking form peering at me again from its dark corner. Even when I close the bathroom door or move something in between myself and a window, I can still feel it there watching me. No matter how much I try to avoid or ignore it, I always know it is there, seemingly waiting in the shadows for the perfect moment to strike. I don’t dare tell anyone; I’m not going to risk making a fool of myself.

For the first couple of weeks I live like this, with constant paranoia and an almost irrational fear of my reflection. But eventually I realize that whatever it was, if it wants to harm me it would have already done so. After a few days of relaying this reassuring fact in my head each time I stepped up to the bathroom mirror, I begin to treat the sightings as though it is as mundane as a pigeon. Now I’m at the point where I sometimes talk to it.

“Hey there, buddy. Have a good night’s sleep?” or “I’m going out for a smoothie do you want one?”

Of course, it never responds. Although every once in a while it stays around for a few seconds longer than usual before hiding again. It’s been a strange few weeks or so; I know the being is there, but I don’t care at all. It is a part of my every day routine.

I come home from work late and begin readying up for bed. I step into the bathroom, not even bothering to glance into the mirror as I get my toothbrush and toothpaste out. I am just raising the brush to my mouth when I look up at the mirror and freeze.

There it is.

It isn’t hiding behind the door in the edges of the shadows as it usually does; no, it is right there standing in the doorway. This is the first time I have ever had a full view of it, and if I had known what it truly looked like, I would have never been so casual about it before.

It is tall, gaunt, and humanoid in shape, with a head like a snake’s. Coarse brown fur covers its body, broken by scaly spines along its arms, legs, and neck. Its eyes burn out a piercing yellow, with sleek wolf-like ears placed on the side of its head. Worst of all is its mouth: a skeletal, fanged grin that stretches across its hideous face.

Going on my first instinct, I whirl around, expecting its vicious jaws to be the last thing I see. But to my surprise, there is nothing there. I even scramble to the door to look around, but my house is as normal and quiet as usual. It couldn’t have hidden that quickly, could it? I turn back around and give a short scream as I see it now standing directly behind me, its long, black claws raised up above my shoulders. I spin around, punching out and hitting nothing but air. My heart pounding and my mind in a panic, I look back at the mirror again, not knowing what to expect.

Then it happens. As if in a dream, I stand transfixed as the monster latches its claws onto my reflection’s neck, yanking it back. I reach up and feel my own neck, but there is nothing. No pain, no grip. It’s as if I am watching a horror movie in my mirror. My reflection kicks and flails about frantically, its face a mask of pure fear and agony as the claws dig deeper into its shoulders and the beast begins pulling it out the bathroom door.

In a sudden burst of uncanny protectiveness for my own reflection, I whirl around and slam the bathroom door shut, hoping that it will halt the creature. But when I turn back, the door in the mirror is still open, and my reflection is now desperately clinging to the doorframe as blood spills down its body.

I can never describe the sheer horror of seeing yourself –even just a reflection of yourself- being brutally attacked and not being able to do anything about it. Then for the first time since the attack had begun, my reflection looks at up me, right into my eyes with its terror-stricken gaze. It mouths one word, “Help…” before going limp and being dragged off into the blackness beyond the doorframe.

I stand there for what seems like hours, my whole body quaking, and tears flowing freely down my face. My mind is totally numb as I gaze into the empty mirror.

I have no reflection.

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The Oneirophage

January 21, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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In the late ’40s of the last century, after a decade of private research involving experiments with binaural beat brainwave frequencies, extrasensory cognition, and rare extracts of a South American vine, Dr. Tomás Roessner perfected a technique whereby one could actually intrude into the psyche and “see” another’s thoughts. Despite having exhaustively documented his rigorous work, he could find no institution that would even offer to review it. Forced to sell his invention, he found by word of mouth among those through whom he procured narcotics a prospective buyer, the bête noire of an old New York family, Mr. John M. Dunn, a voyeuristic connoisseur of the supernatural and the obscene, who had squandered his idle youth in the great libraries of Paris, those catacombs of departed authors, rummaging among their hordes of dusty and obsolete works; a literary ghoul who disturbed with profane fingers the charnel-houses of decayed philosophies. He readily agreed to the Dr.’s asking price without haggling, delighted at the prospect of exploring such a bizarre novelty.

Once adept at the operation of the apparatus, Dunn paid Dr. Roessner off and under an assumed name rented a shabby house within view of Sing Sing prison. In the timeless night, while the convicts fitfully slept, with the aid of a set of stolen blueprints and his new mindreading device, he raided their memories cell by cell at liberty to savor the forbidden thrill of thefts, molestations, moonlit homicides, in secret, without remorse or consequence.

Within a month, the prisoners, telling each other about the nightmares from which they had all begun abruptly to awaken, discovered they shared striking similarities: first, processions of alligators and tortoises filed through a swamp crowded with faceless people and shrieking orchids; next, a shadow man, at whom they looked directly but could never quite see, would watch them in utter stillness from an empty house while invisible hands probed behind their eyes as they had to stand naked, legs locked in place, unable to run away. Their compared descriptions of the house were identical, including its location just outside the walls. By mutual agreement, it was planned that the first of them to receive parole or be released would search this house out to find if it really existed, and investigate the source of their troubling dreams.

A few days after being freed, their chosen spy was able to inform them with a smuggled message in code that not only was the house real, but he had broken into it at night and found a gaunt, moustached man in a silk smoking jacket seated bolt upright, head thrust back, both eyes gaping, mouth stuck open in a stiffened gasp, clenched hands gripping the arms of his chair, in front of a “scientific machine.” A handwritten journal on the desk told the whole story of his adventures prying unconstrained through their psyches, plundering the haunted memories of criminal after criminal, seeking ever more shameful and audacious experiences until finally he wrote, on July 7th, of his overwhelming desire to witness telepathically the next execution in the prison’s notorious electric chair.

Credit: S.W. Rice

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Facebook Chat (Live Action)

January 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Credit: Liam Vickers

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Fall Fog

January 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Driving along the back roads at night can be a little eerie. Not if you’re country folk, like myself, but if you’re used to lights and other cars and night life, a back road at ten o’clock at night can seem pretty unsettling. There are millions of back roads in upstate New York. Roads that pass through foggy fields, dense forests, old forgotten cemeteries, ancient churches and abandoned houses. Because of the manner of the back road, fast driving isn’t suggested. A hidden turn can flip a fast moving car right over, or send a speeder rocketing into the trees. When you’re on a back road, you drive carefully, with your brights on, hoping nothing jumps out in front of your car and strands you on the road, where you’re out of luck as far as cell phone service goes. There aren’t many towers in rural New York, and getting a signal out here is about as likely to happen as striking oil.

But I’m used to these back roads. I’ve been driving on them for years, and I usually know how to navigate one pretty easily. I already know the pointlessness of cell phones when the city lights wink out, so I don’t feel the surge of fear for losing all my bars. I keep driving, keep my eyes on the road, and never stop for anything.

It was a chilly night in late September, the night sky filled with stars while the moon was new. I had just finished a shift at the hospital, and took one of the many back roads home. It’s a good way to avoid traffic and police generally. I had the radio tuned to a local station, just passing the drive with some mindless pop to break up the silence of the ride home. It was just an average night home, no one else on the road but me. Until the fog rolled in.

Now, fog in September doesn’t happen often in Upstate New York, especially not in late September. It’s starting to get too cold for that, the water in the air just froze as frost. However, one moment I was driving past an open field, and the next my car was blanketed in icy cold, impermeable fog. The temperature in my car sank immediately, even as I cranked up the heat. It was as if the fog was trying to get into the car itself, wrapping itself around the tires and engine in an attempt to choke the life out of it. Breathing fog at this point myself, I applied a little more force to the gas and pressed on, forced to turn down the lights on my car as the high beams just created an ungodly amount of glare on the fog.

It wasn’t long before I saw the frost creeping over my windshield, like lacy fingers clawing across the glass. It grew quickly, cutting swirling bolts across the glass as the fog thickened. The defroster did nothing, and my car was slowed to a creep as the passenger and drivers side windows iced over. Still, my foot remained stuck on the gas, and I peered through the veil of frost and fog as best I could. There could be no stopping on a back road at night. Even as the engine began to sputter and whine, the car inched forward continuously, refusing to stop for anything.

At some point, I began to become aware of shapes just beyond the frost on the windows. It was impossible to tell what they were under the layer of delicate ice. Impossibly white, but somehow lacking in light, their forms were impossible to discern. The car pressed on at a snails pace, as the white figures danced closer and closer to the car. They were like sheets caught in the wind, only capable of reflecting what was shone at them. Apparently shapeless. It must have been the interaction of fog with the ice on the glass, I just refused to look at them. No stopping, do not take your eyes off the road.

The fog must have dampened the signal to the radio, because soon the only thing blaring from the speakers was screeching static, garbled words thrown in from the mangled bubble gum pop song that was playing just a moment earlier. It was when the words started to make sense again that I shut the radio off entirely. Whatever was coming out of there now, it certainly wasn’t music, and it definitely wasn’t helping me drive anymore. I would have taken Justin Beiber over… whatever that was. But it seemed to coalesce with the motions the white figures outside the car were making. The car kept moving, and my eyes stayed on the road.

The creaking and groaning the engine was making was starting to turn into a steady thumping. At least I assumed that it was the engine making the thumping, until the sound started to rattle the back seat windows. My fingers tightened on the steering wheel, and the thumps turned to desperate scrapes, nails dragging down the iced over glass. I didn’t look back at what was making the sound. I didn’t even blink, my mouth and eyes starting to dry out as the scraping was accompanied by a different sound.

A steady, incoherent, hideous gurgling. The white figures had gathered, dancing around the car, skirting around the front of it as it pressed into their ranks and past them. Faces pressed against the iced over windows, sometimes revealing faces, or half of faces. Sunken, beady eyes, lips that had been chewed to ribbons, or noses that were either barely there or had long since been eaten away. Nails screamed over the metal hull of my car, the gurgling both pathetic and horrifying as the car occasionally hit an especially giving bump. It rolled over the lump slowly, and it was impossible to miss the organic, visceral crunch under the tires. Words were mouthed against the glass, pleas distorted by pulped tongues and rotted throats. My teeth were clenched tight, until they ground against each other in my jaw, one threatening to pop and break. Still, my foot never left the gas, and my eyes never left the road.

The entire car rattled, I could feel it shaking under my hands, the cough and whine of the tortured engine, the grinding of gears and the hollow racket the dashboard made as unseen hands pounded and scraped against the car. There was only forward, there was no back or stop. Not now, not ever. Don’t look away, don’t panic, just go forward and-

The fog broke. The car inched out of the mire, and almost immediately the ice began to melt from the windshield. The engine sputtered once and then roared, the tires churned up grit beneath it before I slammed on the gas and rocketed through the rest of the ride home. Don’t look back, don’t stop. I made it back to my house an hour later, and was quick to run into my warm room and bury myself under my blankets.

My dad had a few questions for the the next day. He wanted to know who had keyed my car up so badly at the hospital the other day. Each door on the car had long, raking marks down it, the sheen of the metal underneath glaring through. I told him I didn’t know.

I think I’ll be taking the main road home tonight.

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Watching

January 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM
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Have you ever noticed an ordinary person simply standing somewhere that was obviously unreasonable? Like an elderly woman idle near a pub’s back entrance or a child motionless outside a bank. Yes, I know, I too thought, “Well, there’s got to be a logical reason behind it. So what? They’re probably waiting for someone or something like that”. But that’s my point. What explanation is there when you realize the individual is still there, hours later, silent and unresponsive? Where is your logical excuse? You may think I’m being dramatic, but hear me out before you judge my sanity.

One day, as normal and uneventful as any other, I was on my morning commute to my bottom-of-the-bucket job as a dairy goods stocker at (insert generic supermarket name here) when I saw this middle-aged Asian businessman (assuming by his corporate attire) standing by a bus stop. Yet, he wasn’t exactly next to the stop as if he was waiting for the quarter-hourly Q60 like a handful of other folk were. He was a good fifteen feet from the sign itself. Odd? Yes, but not enough for someone whose subconscious is trained to be oblivious to the world around them while getting from destination A to B as quick as possible. As I speed walked by him, a queer sense of vertigo suddenly washed over me, almost like that feeling you experience when you’re on a plane that dips downward. This snapped me out of my spaced-out trance and I just…stopped. Still confused over what I had experienced, I scanned around me for anything out of the ordinary. My eyes fell on this man, whom of which gave no interest in return. Now that I was much closer to him, his features, or lack thereof, became more definite. The man’s face was void of expression. I would say it even seemed forced, because it wasn’t the “default” frown that we anatomically show when we aren’t trying to express ourselves. His eyes were horrifically sunken as if he were an insomniac. Also worth noting is that his suit looked ancient; the threading was frayed in several places and there were sickly colored stains that were far from fresh. After pausing to take in his strange appearance, I finally realized that I was wasting time and shrugged off the whole event as weird but unimportant.

I went about my usual dull and depressing work day. I would love to say that punch-out time came before I knew it, which that wouldn’t happen even in a dream, but I digress. The evening sun is making its descent as I make my way home with the hope of having a decent meal and a shower before getting to likely past-due Sociology homework. Queens Boulevard was less jammed than usual, so I decided to take the bus. A few minutes behind schedule, the rundown Q60 screeches to a halt at the stop. I board, swiping my college student fare card as I pass the driver and find the least crowded spot. I see my block rapidly approaching, pull on the ragged stop request rope, and exit. Lo and behold, this guy is still standing in the exact spot as when I passed by this morning! My mind explodes with questions like how has no one noticed him stationed there for so long or what in the world is he doing in the first place. Curiosity overcame me and I attempted to get him to explain his behavior.

“Um, excuse me. Is everything alright? I uhh…saw you this morning standing here and I uhh…well…have you been here this whole time? Hello? Sir?”

Somewhat agitated for being ignored, I pressed on.

“Look, buddy, I just thought that there might be something wrong and wanted to know.”

No response.

“Do you not know English or something? I know you can hear me; atleast look at me so I know you’re just being ignorant. Well?”

I’ll admit I was being harsh, but the guy was acting like I was invisible. But then I noticed something. He wasn’t acting ignorant at all, in fact, I don’t think there was anything going on in that head. His eyes had this absentness that was way beyond being spaced-out. It’s like he was an empty shell wearing clothes. The best thing I can compare him to would be a zombie, without the ravenous hunger for flesh of course. At this point I couldn’t help myself; I did the logical thing and poked him. Nothing. No “What was that for?” or sign of agitation. My worries started to grow, as I was out of ideas.

“LOOK, YOU WANNA BE ALL PYSCHO ZOMBIE, DO IT IN YOUR OWN HOME, OK? YOU’RE GONNA GET IN TROUBLE FOR FREAKING PEOPLE OUT EVENTUALLY!”

Other passerby looked at me as if I were a crazed lunatic. Realizing I took it too far, I just continued onward, occasionally looking back over my shoulder half expecting the man to move or something along those lines. He was as quiet and motionless then as he was nine hours ago.

I opened the door to my hallway-shaped apartment and entered the kitchen to pop a frozen dinner into the microwave. My head started to throb as it usually does around this time, thanks to the permanent damage I got from that near-fatal incident with a ladder two years ago. I open my bathroom’s medicine cabinet to take my meds for the pain which reminds me to be thankful for being alive on a daily basis. The microwave’s beeps echo throughout the apartment; tasteless turkey and mashed potatoes await. I force down the unpleasant dish for nourishment, take a calming shower, and turn in for the night.

Its Friday, or as I and probably 99% of other folks with jobs like to call it, payday. I go about my regular morning routine and depart for work. The October weather is not yet chilly enough for long-sleeves and coats, so everyone is dressed in normal clothes. I turned onto the boulevard and was immediately faced with four squad cars, some ambulances, and two practically obliterated vehicles. The first car, a navy blue Honda, had looked like the Incredible Hulk tried to fold it into a taco-like shape. All windows were shattered and the driver’s side door was completely off its hinges and laying a couple feet away. The car was empty, which means whoever was inside probably survived. This was confirmed when a cop assisting a young injured guy, probably about my age, came from around the side of the car. The cop helped the guy into one of the vacant ambulances as an EMT emerged to inspect him. The second vehicle, a stale vanilla SUV, was in much worse shape than the Honda. Have you ever seen a crash test video that manufacturers use in commercials to show how safe their vehicle is? Well multiply that damage by ten, and that was the current state of the SUV. I would go into detail like how there was what seemed to be long matted hair stuck in the jagged windshield, or how there was definitely a thumb just sitting next to the left tire, but I’ve always had a weak stomach for gore. I don’t have to tell you that whoever was driving obviously didn’t make it. The other ambulance had two EMTs inside, pulling a sheet over a woman’s body. I caught a glimpse of the side of her face and gagged before they completely covered her. One officer was idle on the sidewalk, trying to keep passing pedestrians from gathering to see the accident. I walked up to him with my hand raised to signal that I wanted to talk for a second.

“I know it was a car crash, but what happened exactly?”

The officer first scolded me for my curiosity then explained. Apparently the young guy had took his eyes off the road and reached under the dashboard to find a water bottle that was rolling around so it wouldn’t accidentally get stuck behind the brake pedal. He went right through a red light, and well, you can tell what happened next. After telling me what happened, the officer rushed me to continue on my way. It really was a tragic scene, and it’s a shame someone had died due to another person’s negligence. While pondering this, I caught a familiar figure across the street out of the corner of my eye–it was him again. But this time something was different. No, I’m not talking about the man’s expression or stature. That remained the same as the day before. No, this time…he wasn’t alone. Call me crazy all you want, I don’t care. The image of that woman’s grotesque face will forever be burned into the confines of my mind. They just stood there, side by side, spectating the scene of the collision as if they were captivated by it. Goosebumps creeping up on me, I once again bothered the cop for reassurance.

“Sorry again, but…that man over there. You…you see him, right? You see that lady next to him too, right? Isn’t she the one that…died?”

The officer, now annoyed by my questioning, briefly looked towards where I was pointing.

“Look sir, there isn’t anybody over there. Enough with these pointless interruptions, please go on your way and let me do my job.”

Something told me that they would say that. That there is no one physically standing on the other side of the street and that I am just imagining it. But they’re wrong. I know what I saw. I watched as the two figures slowly turned and walked away, and as they went, their bodies became more and more transparent. Almost as if they were slowly phasing out of existence.

From that day on, I gladly took my medication that kept me going, thankful to be alive and well. However, this flicker of understanding was just a ruse to hide the truth. That constant reminder of fear of the day when it’s my turn to walk with the strange man to someplace far from this world. The microwave beeps and I snap back to reality, just like every other night after getting home from work. I take one look at the distasteful meal before me, a tear forming in my eye, and begin to eat.

Credit: Perfect Flaw

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